Bronny James’ realistic professional options and his likely development path

By | March 5, 2024

Over the weekend, reports surfaced that Bronny James, the eldest son of Lakers superstar LeBron James, could opt to stay at USC for another year to work on his development and improve his draft stock. Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul provided some clarity on Saturday night, telling ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Bronny’s decision would be based on team interest, and not expected draft stock.

Bronny experienced many setbacks during his first year at USC. He suffered cardiac arrest in August and underwent heart surgery before the season. By all accounts, he has had a successful return to court with no lingering problems. The team has struggled this year after starting the season ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. The Trojans are now 12-17 and second to last in the Pac-12.

For those who just look at the box score after every game, James doesn’t exactly jump off the page as a one-and-done prospect. The 6-foot-1 guard is currently averaging 5.1 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists in 19.5 minutes per game, leading many to assume he will need to stay at USC for another year or more to develop. to develop.

LeBron has said several times that he hopes to play in the NBA with his son. In 2022, James told The Athletic’s Jason Lloyd: “My senior year will be played with my son. Wherever Bronny is, that’s where I’ll be. I would do anything to play with my son for a year. It’s not about the money at that moment.”

It was always believed that moving Bronny to the Lakers was the target, but Paul said Saturday that “LeBron wants Bronny to be his own man.”

The 39-year-old James is in his 21st season and just became the first player in NBA history to score 40,000 career points. He has hinted at retirement, but admits there is no plan yet for what that looks like.

“I haven’t mapped out how many seasons I have left, I know it’s not that many,” James told reporters ahead of the All-Star Game. “I’m a Laker, and I’ve been happy and very fortunate to be a Laker for the last six years, and hopefully it will continue. But I don’t have the answer to how long it will last or what uniform I will be in .” Hopefully it’s with the Lakers. I don’t know how it’s going to end, but it’s coming. It’s definitely coming.’

How do these statements fit with Bronny, his mediocre year at USC and his projection as an NBA player? The big thing: Bronny will continue to develop his game, whether that means another year or two at USC or with an NBA franchise, most likely in the G League. He is a workhorse. He has all the tools and resources at his disposal to get the best training, the best recovery and learn the game from one of the best players ever.

Bronny will most likely do what countless other college and international players do every spring: test the NBA waters, receive feedback from NBA teams and go through the pre-draft process. NBA scouts are doing all their due diligence, gathering background information and scouting Bronny. He is a great perimeter defender, has his father’s athleticism and can read the pick-and-roll well from the wing. In high school, he was the complementary piece to ball-dominant guards, and scouts recognized early on during the McDonald’s All American Game and Nike Hoop Summit that he has a high IQ and a natural feel for the game.

“He plays the right way and has a three-point game that translates,” an NBA scout told Yahoo Sports last April. “He’s a great defender and you can see he’s starting to grow into his body a little bit more.”

Bronny is a player who does not need the ball in his hands to positively influence the game. It’s the little things he does on the court that scouts will look at and those things will work at the NBA level, whether that’s making the extra pass, getting to his spot on offense or the way he plays hole can close and can recover after the switch. He projects more as a secondary role player who knows how to run the offense and has the shooting mechanics to develop into a reliable shooter. As a young player, he possesses characteristics that many NBA veterans have.

There have been plenty of players with similar statistical lines who have been drafted in the second round. Last year, Paul’s client, Chris Livingston, was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with pick No. 58. In his one year at Kentucky, Livingston averaged 6.3 points and 4.2 rebounds and has spent his freshman season getting reps in the G League. Also in 2023, the Minnesota Timberwolves drafted UCLA’s Jaylen Clark at No. 53. Clark tore his Achilles tendon late last season, and the Timberwolves still drafted him for potential, knowing they would have to wait an entire season before he would take the field to appear. There have been plenty of examples over the years of NBA teams taking a prospect as a draft-and-stash player for further development.

It’s also worth noting that the Lakers have the 56th pick in this year’s draft. It is by no means a guarantee that they will draft Bronny with that pick based solely on the fact that his father is the face of the franchise, but there will be conversations about Bronny at the highest levels of the team.

Paul ensured that Bronny’s situation would be based on team fit. “I don’t really appreciate a young player hitting the lottery, but I do appreciate getting him on the right team and in the right development situation,” Paul said.

Playing with his father and staying close to home seems like an ideal situation.

There is still plenty of time to make all these decisions. Bronny will finish his season at USC and move on from there. At every step of his young career, he has faced criticism and found ways to quiet the noise, improve and compete. His next step, whatever it will be, will be no different.

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